Wondering how you can stay out of divorce court? Here's what you need to know. Family law attorney Henry Gornbein gives his advice on how to avoid a court date with your ex. Have a question of your own? Ask in the comments.
I tell my clients that court should be the last resort. You do not want a stranger in a black robe deciding some of the most intimate issues in your life. You do not want a stranger telling you where your children will live, how much time you can spend with your children and deciding all of your financial issues. Once you go to court, whether it is for a hearing or a trial, you lose control of your lives and the lives of your children if custody is an issue.
There are several ways to stay out of court. First of all, if you and your soon-to-be former spouse can sit down and work out as many issues as possible, this will help facilitate a settlement. Having a good attorney who is a problem solver, rather than someone who creates problems, is also important. You want an attorney who works with and for you, and not someone who will lead you astray or create unnecessary conflicts or battles. In addition to face-to-face negotiations, a four-way meeting involving attorneys and clients can often result in, if not a resolution of all issues, at least a resolution of as many issues as possible. I have found that through a series of meetings many cases can be resolved.
Another good approach is mediation. In Michigan where I practice, and in more and more other states, mediation is used as a means of resolving cases without the need to go to trial. A good mediator will work with the parties to settle everything with input from you as well as your attorneys. In some high conflict divorces, I am involved in situations where we will have mediators with powers to make interim rulings, and where we can have either mini-hearings, or tightly structured negotiations in an effort to keep the case from spinning out of control. This can resolve issues and avoid going to trial.
As I said previously, the last thing anyone wants is to go to trial. Once you say things about your spouse in court, you will be opening up wounds that are on the public record and cannot be taken back. Think about this before you decide to go to trial.
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